There’s plenty of talk about things to do in ports of call when on a cruise. Much less is discussed about days at sea, despite the fact that plenty of cruises — whether long or short — have them.
In short, a sea day is nothing more than a day on your cruise when the ship doesn’t port at all. Instead, the cruise spends the entire day traveling between spots and giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy everything on the ship.
Of course, with so much time available many passengers wonder what to do on their day at sea. Below, we cover a number of the best options you have available to give you some ideas of how to spend your time.
Hit the Pool (It’s Popular!)
Without a doubt the most popular thing to do on a sea day is to partake in that classic cruise activity of lounging by — or in — the pool, soaking up the sun, with a drink in your hand.
Of course, any cruise ship you sail will have a central pool area and many of the newer and larger ships will also feature second or third pool areas. These can be at the aft or forward on the ship. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the ship, the more pools you’ll find to enjoy.
You should know, however, that the pool is by far the most popular spot during a sunny sea day. It’s a good idea to head down early (before 10 a.m.) or visit later (after 3 p.m.) when the crowds have thinned out a bit, unless you love the energy of having lots of people around.
Book a Treatment in the Spa
Another popular pastime while on a sea day is to get a treatment at the spa. All cruise ships will have a spa area where you can get everything from massages to manicures. With plenty of time on their hands while the ship sails from port to port, many people take advantage to book a treatment.
If we’re honest, however, booking a treatment when the ship is in port may be a better option for you. Sometimes the spa discounts services during ports of call since there are fewer customers. As well, with fewer passengers on the ship when in port, it’s easier to book your spot.
Still, there’s no denying that not missing time in port means sea days make it perfect for a spa visit.
Try Your Luck in the Casino (It’s Open at Sea)
Gambling on a cruise is one of the more popular activities, no matter which line you sail. Nearly every ship has a casino and in some cases they can be massive. No matter the size, they will always have lots of games you know and love like slots, video poker, roulette, blackjack, and craps. There are also lots of games you don’t normally see in a casino, like the skill crane that drops down to try and grab cash.
Casinos aren’t open when the ship is in port. Once it reaches international waters, however, it opens up. When the ship is at sea, the casino is open all day meaning you can play when you want. Table games may not open until a little later in the morning.
If you like gambling when it’s not so crowded, during the daytime while at sea is a good time to go.
Relax in the Adults-Only Section
These days many ships have dedicated spots just for adults like Royal Caribbean’s Solarium or Carnival’s Serenity Deck. This area features sun, loungers, and pool and/or hot tubs. In addition, there is normally a bar included as well, meaning you don’t have to go far for anything you might need. If you’re sailing on a ship with lots of kids, this can be a sanctuary where things are quieter, less hectic, and simply more relaxing.
To be sure, similar to the main pool you can expect this area to be crowded on sea days. It’s a smart idea to get there earlier or visit later in the day in order to grab a spot.
Explore the Ship to Get Your Bearings
Sailing from a place like Galveston, New Orleans, or Seattle? If so, the first full day of the cruise is almost always a day at sea given the distance to ports of call. If that’s the case on your cruise, then one of the best things to do is use that time to explore the ship.
Modern cruise ships are enormous, in some cases measuring nearly 1,200 feet long with 20 decks. To say they can be overwhelming is an understatement. It’s easy to get turned around or even to miss certain spots altogether.
Taking some time just to walk the ship helps to get your bearings and also makes sure you don’t miss any areas that look interesting to you during the cruise.
Sleep In (It’s Harder on Port Days)
Now you can sleep on any day of your cruise… it’s your vacation after all. A day at sea, however, is the perfect time to take advantage.
In a port of call, the ship normally docks and starts to let passengers out early in the morning, around 8 a.m. If you want to make the most of your day, that usually means waking up by 7 a.m. in order to get ready and eat some breakfast before making it off the ship when the gangway drops.
On a day at sea, there is no schedule to adhere to. Instead, you can sleep in, grab a late breakfast, and generally take it easy on your own schedule. It’s a favorite of many passengers. If you do end up being out and about early, you’ll notice there are few others around the ship at that time.
Compete in the Contests Onboard
With a full ship during a sea day, the crew has a lot of people to entertain. You’ll notice on your daily schedule there are a lot more activities around the ship. Many of them revolve around little competitions, ranging from trivia contests to ping-pong challenges to game shows.
These are fun to do on their own, especially if it’s something that you’re decently good at doing anyway. What’s fun is that if you win, it’s likely you’ll get a small prize that can be a fun souvenir to remember your cruise.
Shop (Or Window Shop) in the Promenade
If you’re sailing on a modern mega ship, then it’s likely to have an interior deck that’s dedicated to stores. With a captive audience on board looking for things to do, having some spots to shop — or window shop — makes sense.
The stores on your cruise are usually higher-end, selling things like watches, purses, and jewelry. There will also be a duty-free store where you can stock up on vices like alcohol and cigarettes. Many ships also have a shop dedicated to cruise line or ship merchandise as well, so you can find a souvenir t-shirt or hat with the name of the ship to take home.
Find Your Spot on the Ship
We mentioned earlier about exploring the ship to get a feel for its layout and to make sure you don’t miss any areas you might not otherwise visit. In a similar vein, the day at sea is a great time to also find “your” spot.
We’ve noticed that on any cruise ship we sail, we find a spot where we just feel comfortable. Maybe it’s the seating, or the decor, or the atmosphere. Sometimes it’s a bar or a lounge. Other times it’s a particular area of the pool deck. It varies from ship to ship, but there’s always a place that seems to be a “fit” and find ourselves returning each day.
When you’re at sea with some time to explore, it’s a great time to see which area calls your name.
Take Advantage of the Adventure Onboard
If you’re sailing a smaller or older ship, this one likely won’t apply. But if you’re on a bigger ship, then there is no doubt a lot of fun physical activities for you to do. From waterslides to rock walls to roller coasters to go-karts to ice skating to bumper cars to ropes courses, what’s possible on a cruise ship today is jaw-dropping. It’s all designed to keep passengers entertained and a day at sea is the perfect time to try them.
One thing to note is similar to the spa and the pool, you actually see smaller lines for these activities during days in port. (In fact, we like to hit them right after coming back to the ship on a port day.) So if you want to do these things at sea, expect to have to wait a little longer. Still, you will have plenty of time given you’re there all day.
Prepare for the Next Port of Call
One overlooked thing to do while you’re in the middle of the ocean? Getting ready for the upcoming days in port.
While you have some spare time, it’s a great opportunity to look into things to do for the upcoming ports, whether it’s researching online or heading down to talk to the shore excursion desk.
If you haven’t already booked a tour and want to do so, the shore excursion desk can answer any questions you might have and get you tickets. You’ll also usually find some general port information so you can get the lay of the land before you arrive and be ready to hit the ground running.